The Future of Air Travel
Coronavirus has already led to impacting the lives of millions. Eating at restaurants, boarding a metro or visiting your closest friend will not be the same anymore.
It’ll be a long and carefully planned journey before flights start visiting across International borders. However, we might just see flights running domestically back again. As the Indian government nears the end of the third lockdown phase, there have been many talks regarding the future of domestic flights. In case the government gives a nod to the running of flights domestically, the normal of the air travel might just be redefined. The way you travelled will definitely be defined by new norms that many airports are planning to incorporate.
Remember the days when thinking about who the person sitting next to you would stress you out. Well, it may not be the same anymore. In order to function in post COVID times, Airplanes might just leave the middle seat empty. An arm distance between you and your fellow passenger will be maintained during all trips. Not just block seats but electrostatic spraying, personnel in protective gear and masks will greet you on the entrance of your flight. This will lead to a decrease in the number of overall passengers that would be allowed to book the airline and board it. Major European carriers such as Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines already have made these measures compulsory and it’s further expected that all other airlines will do the same.
The leaving behind middle seats empty will also be accompanied by maintaining a significant amount of gap between the passengers and cabin crew. The view of air hostesses coming to your seat to serve you food and beverages may not be continued anymore. Airlines may keep your food packages already on your assigned seats before you enter the aircraft. Passengers may be allowed to even carry their own food. Many flight services have also come forward with their suggestions. They have stated that flights that have a travel duration of mere two hours should not serve any form of refreshment or meal. This is currently being practised by Hong Kong Airlines that have decided to stop offering food altogether. In the case of flights that are travelling for long distances or in the future will be crossing borders, a light refreshment can be considered.
Remember the never-ending, clumsy rows that you had to always stand in for boarding? The future of Air travel will require boarding to be conducted in a non-clumsy manner. Airports will allow you to stand in only three rows where you at least maintain a distance of two-metre during both check-in and check out. The rows will in itself include a wider gap. Even in the waiting area where travellers used to the crowd while waiting to board for their flight, you will notice a considerable difference. The practice of social distancing will impact where you lounge and sit in the waiting area as well.
As the airlines will go by their day onboarding and deboarding passengers to and from the different areas over the country (for now at least) a high risk looms over the health of people who are part of the cabin crew and the passengers travelling in and out of the airline. A cleaning protocol must be handled by all operating airlines. Where after every journey they will have to clean the cabins and disinfect the entire passenger seating area. Nine out of 10 experts expect slower turnarounds between flights due to the need for thorough cleaning of cabins and following of sanitary measures at airports.
The sanitation will not only be limited to seats and cabins of the aircraft but also the sanitation of luggage. The luggage will be sent through a disinfection fogging tunnel through which all your bags will be thoroughly sanitized. A tag will be added to your bag that will safely let the crew know that your bag has gone through a process of fogging, electrostatic or UV-disinfection. This will help in not only removing any form of germs from your baggage but also help in reinstating the confidence level of both the parties involved in the period after Coronavirus. The Telegraph has stated that however, it may sound futuristic, but UV sanitation is likely to become a common view at numerous airports of the world. London Heathrow says it is to begin trialling the process for its security trays.
Many airports have come up with possible sanitation methods that they might conduct from the coming days. Many airports are considering banning cabin bags of all kinds of passengers. Whether they are travelling for a shorter period of time or for a considerably longer duration or distance. Passengers will further not be allowed to relax or wait for their flight at the lounge area. Any process that requires a human print or contact might be bid adieu because if the person is infected then they might just spread it to the next batch of passengers that visit the airport to board their flight. A big role that will be played in the functioning of the airports would be through Digitisation. The Digital medium will help in incorporating the automation process that will replace a major chunk of the functioning of the airports. As there are many touchpoints around an airport they will be replaced by biometric boarding systems that will be mandatory. This will allow the passenger to board planes with only their face as a passport. Many airlines including British Airways, Qantas and EasyJet already are using the technology. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the new normal at major airports, such as the Heathrow Airport of London, John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and the Changi Airport of Singapore will most probably include exclusive use of online check-ins and contactless payments.
You will no longer be allowed to say bye to your family member or friend inside the airport area. A warm hug will be allowed only outside the premises of the airport and not inside. People whose names have been mentioned on the flying list and have been safely considered fit enough to travel would be allowed to enter. People who are not flying will only be allowed inside the airport in case they are accompanying any minors or people who require any form of assistance. This strategy has been predicted by the airline strategy firm SimpliFlying.
Not just domestic flying but international travelling will also face some different protocols that will be mandatory to be followed. Once countries are back to opening their international borders, passengers stepping on the foreign land will be required to show some form of proof for their immunity. Any form of immunity document or passport will be adjudged advisable to all kinds of travellers. This method has been backed by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) to border control agents. However, it may not just stop at that. Upon the arrival of passengers from different countries, they will go through a process of temperature screening. This might also include blood tests that help them judge if the person has coronavirus or not. Some airports of Hong Kong and Vienna are testing passengers for coronavirus with a blood test before they are allowed to enter the country. However, it is also being said that these test may only be short-lived and another method might be found to help international authorities find out if the foreign traveller has any form of threatening disease. Thermal testing is also being recommended by the IATA. The Airlines UK, which represents British Airways, EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, has stated that the pre-screening of travellers should ideally be introduced as early as possible in the passenger journey.
Currently, there are no decisions being taken around the making of such tests that will help in decoding any form of illness that the passenger is carrying with himself or herself. These are only suggestions that are floating around the world where people are suggesting such tests and screening mandatory, airports and airlines are pushing for uniform regulations. It is also not clear who will be responsible for checking travellers.
Other than these policies and digital technologies to be implemented, airports will also feature hand sanitizer stations at frequent points including where luggage is stored. This will also include contactless payment instead of credit transactions. Though the current situation is like figuring a maze that has millions of entry points but only one exit point. But in this dilemma, one thing is sure that things might slowly come back on track but only with a few cautions that will help everyone in restoring their faith in things especially for travel. As per the future of travel, it is being predicted that travel is likely to return first to domestic markets with maybe staycations type holidays. This may further move onto the country’s nearest neighbours before taking the big leap onto far off nations. Finally, it is said across continents to welcome the return of journeys to long-haul international destinations.
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